January 2011


Daily Articles

Darfur: Longing For Home In a Land of Oppression

by anonymous worker in Darfur

“If once you visit Jebel Marra, you will never return home.” These words of a popular Sudanese song are quoted by thousands of Darfuris as they describe mango trees drooping with fruit, orange trees with delicious fruit, waterfalls and emerald foliage. Very few have ever seen Jebel (Mount) Marra, and those who have seen it have now fled due to the conflict of the last seven years. The region has become a strategic stronghold for the rebels and a military target for the government, but for the people of Darfur it remains an Edenic symbol of unspoiled creation.


“Darfur” refers to the three states of North, West and South Darfur. This is a region the size of Spain on the western edge of Sudan, bordered by Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic. The terrain is semi-arid, sandy with rocky mountains, shrubs, and seasonal waterways. One of the most valued things in Darfur are the giant, shade-giving trees.

Apart from those who live in the three state capitals of El Fasher, Genaina and Nyala, and a smattering of mid-sized towns, most Darfurians live in villages of from 100 to 2,000 people. The country folk farm millet for their daily meals and sesame, peanuts and tobacco for trade. The women spend their days fetching water from distant wells, while the men are preparing, farming and harvesting their fields. The family goes to the weekly market to buy or sell soap, charcoal and produce, mill their grain and catch up on the latest news. In the evenings the family may listen to the radio, sing, tell stories, and look for shooting stars.


In the 16th century Darfur was an independent Muslim sultanate ruled by the African tribe of the Fur. This sultanate profited from a thriving slave trade. It didn’t become a part of Sudan until the Egyptian conquest in 1875. Because of its distance from Khartoum, Darfur didn’t receive a fair allocation of resources, neither under the Anglo-Egyptian colonization nor when Sudan gained its independence in 1956. Sudanese talk about the government’s informal classification of “included” (mashmoola) and “marginalized” (muhamasha) states. Darfur has always been marginalized.

Darfur is home to primarily African agrarian tribes, many with distinct languages; but also several nomadic Arab livestock herding tribes live in the region. Severe famine in the 1980s caused a rivalry for needed land between the two groups, resulting in tribal warfare.

A War of Brother Against Brother

The current war in Darfur differs from the north-south civil war of Sudan because the northern instigators cannot claim it is a Muslim holy war. Darfurians are not animist or Christian, but Muslim. The Fur and the Zaghawa, two tribes proud of their African languages and heritage and resistant to the government’s agenda of Arabization, swore on the Qur’an 10 years ago to defend their villages against government attacks. In the next two years they successfully attacked police stations and army garrisons, culminating in a strike on the El Fasher Airport. They destroyed as many as seven Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships, killing 75 soldiers. The Sudanese government had not been ambushed like this in their war against the south. Alarmed, they decided to mobilize the nomadic Arab tribesmen of Darfur as a proxy militia force. They armed, supplied and paid these janjaweed to systematically plunder and burn the villages of the Fur and Zaghawa, as well as of other African tribes deemed a security threat.

In the spring of 2004, the international community began to realize what was happening when 100,000 refugees fled to Chad with the janjaweed on their trail. So began a two-pronged international drama. On the one hand, the government of Sudan talked with the international community and agreed to accept an African Union peacekeeping force of 7,000 in Darfur. On the other hand, they supported the Arab militias who killed and displaced the people, and they undermined every effort to bring in the UN peacekeepers.

An estimated 300,000 have died as a direct result of the conflict, and 2.7 million have been displaced into camps in Chad and other parts of Darfur. The camps range in size from 15,000 to 130,000. The services in the camps are provided primarily by international NGOs.

In March of 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted the Sudanese President, Omar El-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In July of 2010, he was found guilty on counts of genocide. The day of the court’s March announcement, the Sudanese government expelled 10 critical humanitarian participants, leaving many Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps without NGOs to continue health, water and sanitation services.

Multiple rounds of peace talks have divided the rebel groups, giving the appearance of progress as some factions join the government for money and power while the most important factions refuse to attend until their demands are met. The ceasefires declared during negotiations look hopeful to the international community, but to those who live in Darfur, they almost always signal a new round of fighting.

Religious Life

Most Darfurians are devoted Muslims, praying in groups in city marketplaces, or under a village tree. They fast during Ramadan, while they continue to work their fields. Many Darfurians are Sufis, and in the city, children chant Allah’s name into mosque loudspeakers until late into the night, and celebrate the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday with colorful tents, candy and bicycle streamers. Many villages do not have an elementary school accessible to their children, so they send them walking to the nearest khalwa, or Qur’anic school, where a fakhi helps them memorize the Qur’an. Those who don’t speak Arabic will never understand what they are memorizing.

Most Darfurians, especially those in the villages, while outwardly Muslim, practice folk Islam, wearing amulets for protection from sickness. A baby’s most precious first possession is a square leather amulet tied around its neck with a black cord. Animals are vital to the survival of villagers, so the livestock also sport amulets. Men wear a charm bracelet-style band of amulets around their upper arm, and rebel soldiers wear hundreds of them in their ammunition belts. Traditional spiritual leaders have an important place in the community. They perform rituals for healing such as writing verses from the Qur’an with ash, and washing the verses into a cup to be drunk. They also recite the bismillah (meaning “in the name of God”) 99 times, spitting on the patient after each recitation.

A Door for the Gospel in the Midst of War

Visas for the UN workers and NGOs have opened up Darfur to outsiders, many of whom are followers of Christ. Africans, Westerners, Asians, and Sudanese from the south and the Nuba Mountains are all actively praying for peace in Darfur and sharing their faith.

Darfurians feel like they have been neglected and abandoned for a long time. They are eager to receive any form of attention, whether development projects, education or spiritual teaching. When they see the JESUS Film or listen to the Sermon on the Mount, they are open-hearted and responsive. One lady displaced by fighting responded to the story of Jesus by saying, “Surely mercy is found in Jesus, and he brings his followers out of the burning sun, into the cool, cool shade.”

How Can We Pray?

Pray that Darfurians who daily experience hunger, disease, conflict, and neglect will follow Jesus into the merciful shade of forgiveness and life.
Pray that the Lord shows Christ’s servants how to introduce Darfurian Muslims to Jesus.
Pray that both government and rebel leaders will find repentance and humility, and that they would become wise servants of their people, willing to negotiate for real peace.
Pray for forgiveness and reconciliation among the people who have wronged and been wronged.
Pray according to 2 Thess. 3:1, that the gospel will run swiftly and be glorified, being sown widely through stories, parables, testimonies, dreams, miracles, and distribution of recordings and Bibles.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the churches currently active in Darfur; that they would have power to pray, proclaim the Kingdom and disciple believers.
Pray for Christian foreigners and nationals who are ministering holistically to have favor with the government for their NGO projects. Pray for a spiritual impact on the communities they serve.
Pray that new believers will be discipled with others in their community and learn to follow Jesus in their culture. Pray that their wives and children would also believe and grow.

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From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
Three years ago we prayed for the unreached people groups in Sudan. We prayed for the many groups that were involved in the constant warfare between the northern Arab Muslim regions and the southern tribes which are mostly Christian or animistic. At the time of this writing, there are plans for an election that could allow the African tribes of southern Sudan to form a nation separate from the north. Please pray for God to shower His mercy on the peoples of Sudan as they enter this election period. Pray that God’s will be done in this election and that it will usher in a peaceful, Christ filled period in this country.
This month we will focus our prayers specifically on the unreached people groups who live in Darfur, a war-torn region in the western area of southern Sudan near the border with Chad. Unlike the situation in other southern regions, this area is primarily Muslim, so this conflict cannot be mistaken for a “religious” war. However, in both conflicts the northern dominant Sudanese regime is bent on oppressing the peoples within her borders for economic gain.
Pray for the region of Darfur and its people who must endure much hardship. The only way out of this tragic deadlock is for our compassionate God to intervene.
In Christ,
Keith Carey, managing editor, GPD